The opening also gives us our first glimpse at the film’s lead character Kunisada (Riki Takeuchi) who promptly jumps through what is most likely bullet proof glass and fights off a bunch of guards. Kunisada is, as the voiceover attests to, a wild animal, a dangerous outlaw and a violent anti-hero of almost superhero like capabilities. The fact that Kunisada is played by the wonderful perma-gurning Riki Takeuchi only cements the character as impossible to ignore and hard not to love.
Any fans of contemporary Japanese genre cinema will most probably be familiar with Takeuchi from a number of Yakuza pictures and his memorable performance in the decidely patchy Battle Royale sequel (he was perhaps the sole highlight) but this is probably the biggest chance Takeuchi has really had to shine in a lead performance. Takeuchi clearly relishes the oppurtunity and every second he is on screen he defines the cliché of chewing the scenery. There’s almost no subtly in Takeuchi’s performance but he’s fully aware of where his strengths are and plays to them. Miike too seems well aware and lets Takeuchi run wild, particularly so in a memorable sequence where Kunisada lays waste to a group of men with a crowbar.
The plot of Deadly Outlaw: Rekka is minimal and to go into too much detail would serve little purpose but suffice to say this is a relatively familiar ‘Yakuza gets out of jail’ story but told in an exceptional way with an exceptional lead. Miike’s shooting choices also hugely add to the otherwise familiar story constantly keeping thing fresh and interesting with the mostly successful use of jump cuts, slow-motion and interesting framing choices. One stand out choice is the surprising decision to keep the camera static in a hospital shoot out which adds suspense to a scene that could have simply played as purely bombastic action. Despite the thrilling action and jump cut montages that are often the associations made with Miike he is a skilled filmmaker in many areas and this can also be seen in some quite beautiful slow sequences throughout the film that contrast some of the more gritty fast paced action.
Deadly Outlaw: Rekka is defined though somewhat by the action and this could well be the film’s biggest flaw as any time Takeuchi’s not gurning, Satori’s not blasting on the soundtrack and bullets (or rockets) aren’t flying the film feels a little like it’s treading water. For the most part though Deadly Outlaw: Rekka is sharp and thrilling and ends with an appropriately excessive climax and enigmatic final scene.
This new DVD from Arrow is the first time that the title has been available on DVD in the UK and the disc comes with a couple of interviews (one old, one new) that are good in places but hardly essential and the original Japanese trailer.
The picture quality of the main feature is pretty terrible with a lot of sparkle, tearing and what looks like physical damage, all of which I first put down to the low grade quality of the original film but there are clips from the feature included in one of the interviews that appear to be of a much higher quality and are also presented in what appears to be the original aspect ratio rather than the 16:9 presentation that the Arrow DVD opts for. I therefore recommend the new Arrow DVD of Deadly Outlaw: Rekka with a few reservations but these minor complaints shouldn’t stop you checking out this thoroughly entertaining film.
Deadly Outlaw: Rekka is available to buy now.